Branding is not a marketing tool reserved for big-budget companies like Coca-Cola, Starbucks or Google. Branding is not a concept created to live in academic books, nor a fancy word used by gurus to sell their all-in-one marketing solutions. And, certainly, branding is not a magic tonic that will make your business profitable in one day.
So, what’s branding?
Branding is one of the most powerful marketing tools that all kinds of business, and even professionals, have to use if they want to earn the right to live in the hearts, minds and pockets of their consumers.
If you are a big fan of straightforward definitions, I have you covered, because for me, branding is:
The process of creating a brand using well-defined objectives, marketing communication strategies, protocols, and customer experiences.
It is also a continuous process that must evolve at the same pace as the market, consumers and competitors do.
So, now that we have a definition of branding, let’s take a deeper look at the objectives, marketing communication strategies and protocols you can implement within your organization to improve the branding method you currently employ.
Trust me when I say… you have one even if you are the owner of a small business, a startup company or a professional career. We all do branding, at all times. And for a company that manages a set of celebrity brands, we know a thing or two about personality branding.
How can you create business objectives using branding, and what’s the purpose?
Well, to answer those two questions I must ask you first to keep in mind that branding is not a concept that only lives within the marketing realm. Although brands are deeply related to markets, they rely on communication to deliver messages to their customers, thus you might want to start thinking about brands as if they were people with feelings, flaws, birthdays and even pets.
Now that you see brands as personalities, we can start developing metrics to measure their progress. And yes, you might think that you can’t measure a concept like branding, but actually there are a couple of ways to know how well a brand is doing against their competitors, how it’s being perceived by people and what is the market saying about them.
Introducing: top of mind, top of heart, social mentions and a little thing called Google Search, which we discussed in this article.
- Top of Mind (TOM) and Top of Heart (TOH) are two concepts created to rank brands. TOM is used to rank brands according to the position they hold in our memory, whereas TOH is used to rank brands according to the emotional connections we have with them.
- Google Searches help you understand what people are looking for when they research your brand, products or services.
- Social mentions show what people think, share and do with a brand. To measure social mentions, look beyond “Likes” and “Followers” and start looking at “Reactions”, “Shares”, and “Comments” to get a better idea of what people really think of your brand.
How can you use these metrics for branding purposes?
Easy… create numeric objectives to measure your ranking in TOM and TOH on a yearly basis, keep an eye on Google Searches to find out what people want to know about your brand, and have someone track the social mentions related to products, services and feedback from your audience.
If you want deep analytics, which we strongly encourage as Duo Executives, we insist you try using social listening software to help you. Social listening software will not only assess ROE (Return on Engagement), but it will also detect sentiment around a particular topic by grouping certain comments together based on feelings or preferences.
Regarding the second question: the purpose of branding is to humanize a company. Let’s be honest: people like people, and the more human we perceive a brand, the more likely is that we put our confidence (and money) on them.
Which leads us to…
Using marketing communication strategies to show why people should pick us and stick with us.
It doesn’t matter if you own a vintage coffee shop, or distribute car parts to customers in Thailand, you will want customers to have great experiences with your brand, so they recommend your products to their pals and come back to your place whenever they need a refill. That’s why you should pay extra attention to every interaction a person has with your company, from the way a waiter presents the menu to the packaging of your product. Think of it as a first date (or a second), where you are thorough to the last detail in order to create a long-term relationship.
The best way to get value from branding is in creating a unified experience that delivers a simple, yet powerful, message:
My brand is the same here and now, as it will be tomorrow.
To make it happen you have to tell the story of your business over and over again, with a certain degree of authenticity. Take a look at Coca-Cola, a brand who constantly innovates on advertising formats, but never tells a story outside the boundaries of its philosophy. No matter where in the world, the message is clear and concise.
Through repetition your brand will develop habits, whether they come in form of slangs, visual style, advertising formats or themes. And people will notice it. In fact, they’ll start counting on them, because just like humans, brands are expected to be reliable and constant. So, the core message is: find the voice of your brand and share it with the world using the right communication marketing mix.
Here’s a great tip if you want to get better at branding: spend a day visiting your favorite brand’s company headquarters. Consider CNN, Google, and Coca-Cola in Atlanta. Immersing yourself in the culture and learning about their startup story will give you a tremendous understanding of why powerful brands are established personalities.
Branding without protocols, is not branding.
We’ve talked about the purpose of branding and why it’s important in the life of your customers. Now I want to talk about making branding a system within your organization. As marketing executives who have pulled companies out of horrible branding mistakes time and time again, we urge you to follow these tips to create a solid branding strategy that helps your business stabilize and grow:
- Find a language for your brand and use it on ALL pieces of marketing communication. If you’re marketing to various ethnic groups, understand that though English is acceptable, adapting the brand to your customer’s native language is better.
- Make sure your logo has enough variants to make it visible in all kinds of formats. But don’t confuse customers by combining them all in the same piece. This just creates clutter and unnecessary noise.
- Brief your advertising agencies about the philosophy of your company and how you want to be perceived by people. If you have any marketing insights, share them!
- Learn about the legal processes of branding. I’m talking about trademarks, registered marks, usage of copyright images, etc. That knowledge can help you prevent problems with the identity development of your brand.
- Pinpoint where your slogan should come into play, and consider using it by itself as opposed to tying it to other forms of copy for the sake of creativity.
- Make sure your brand aligns with your business strategy and model. This means if licensing fees or royalties apply to your business (such as in franchising), be extra protective over your trademarks and copyrights.
- Use automation tools, like Hubspot (which by the way we’re partnered with), to save tons of time creating content and receiving real time data about the performance of your communication efforts.
- Have a streamlined approach to content marketing. Here’s an article we wrote about it.
- Take care of the people your brand is serving. Prep social media responses to solve questions, drive crisis and engage with positive comments.
- Train your customer service personnel to connect with your brand, listen to them and learn from what people share about problems and praises of your products.
- Create documents and tests to measure the impact of your marketing efforts.
Finally, I want you to take a look at how Microsoft handles branding in this article and I really hope you finish this article remembering that:
Branding is not so much about the products. Instead, consider it more about creating a personality that people can relate to, whenever they need it. It’s like that one “friend” you need at that specific moment in time. When you can have customers recall your brand at the moment you want, you’ve been branded!